Rising young Manly hooker Manase Fainu laughed when asked about tackling powerful prop Martin Taupau.
“I don’t even know how to stop him,’’ he says, smiling.
“He is one big boy.
“Same with Addin Fonua-Blake….just close your eyes and hope for the best.”
Fortunately for Fainu, time is on his side. Taupau and Fonua-Blake are on holidays after finishing their World Cup duties with New Zealand.
It’s not the case for the 19-year-old Fainu, one of the shining lights of Manly’s premiership winning Holden Cup team.
The skilful hooker is into his third week of pre-season training with the NRL squad under Coach Trent Barrett.
It is a daunting and exciting challenge. Suddenly, everything is tougher. The weight sessions are harder, the field sessions longer, and the level of intensity rises.
Fainu is not alone though. He has a few familiar faces with him in U20s team-mates Jade Anderson, Tevita Funa, Taniela Paseka, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tom Wright, Keith Titmuss, and former Sharks NYC half Luke Metcalf.
Like any smart hooker, Fainu has that cheeky side.
“Taniela is overgrown already, and he is only 20,’’ Fainu joked about the two metre, 119kg prop.
“Haumole and Taniela are big boys themselves….Haumole scored three tries against the Dragons in in the finals.
“I don’t know how the opposition manages to tackle them.”
Jokes aside, Fainu is embracing the hard work. He knows opportunities await. What he doesn’t want to experience again soon is the task of mixing concrete.
“I started concreting when I was in Year 8 or 9 during the school holidays to earn some money,’’ he said.
“When I finished school, I started doing it full-time. I didn’t really enjoy it, but I had to deal with it.
“Then Manly gave me an opportunity. I’m very grateful for that.”
Fainu played 28 matches for Manly this year and took out the club’s ‘Russ Bull’ Holden Cup award for Best and Fairest.
“The past 12 months at Manly have been amazing. I’ve played my best footy,’’ Fainu said.
“I started the year at half-back before Wayne moved me to hooker. I went on to make some rep teams and then ended up winning a premiership.
“I certainly see myself as a hooker now. I saw Daly Cherry-Evans and the halves running at training and they are too quick for me, so I’m better off staying with the forwards.”
Fainu said he has already learnt plenty from Manly’s Fijian Test hooker, Apisai Koroisau.
“Api was a big help to me when I moved to hooker. Every tip he gave me, I took it with both hands,’’ he said.
“He is a tough player and a real role model.
“Plus he knows how to tackle those big boys…like Marty.”